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woodmouse

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About woodmouse

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  • Birthday 08/01/1973

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  1. The opening of The Big Sleep acts as an information dump for the viewer--both about the character of Philip Marlowe and the character of his employers. Marlowe is respectful as he enters the house, removing his hat and addressing the butler politely. He looks around the foyer, his expression that of a man not used to such opulent surroundings, but then again, not too impressed by them, either. When Carmen enters, he is not adverse to getting an eyeful of her short shorts or playing with her, but he is not crude about it, nor does he take advantage of her literally falling into his arms; rather, he is chivalrous enough to catch her when she intentionally lets herself fall. He has the measure of her character, too; we see that when he remarks on her behavior to the butler. When he meets the general, he accepts a drink and a smoke--he is not a man without vices. He tells his prospective employer his age, that he went to college--but can still speak English when he needs too (presumedly meaning he can be working class when the occasion requires)--and that he worked for the DA before insubordination resulting in his termination. It's quite the character portrait for a mere four minutes of film.
  2. The credits of Border Incident have noir elements in them. Starkly contrasting black and white landscape shots, strong diagonal lines, and the kind of music that lets the viewer know that trouble is coming (a deep jazz riff) are all present. But when the credits close and the film actually starts, it could be a newsreel. It's a stretch to find any noir elements in the clip after the credits. Mann tries to incorporate the documentary genre into a noir film, but is not entirely successful. Maybe the rest of the film is more "classic" noir, but the clip we have is as jarring as Anderson Cooper being introduced with, say, the opening of The Sopranos.
  3. The opening shot of this scene bears the stamp of Lang--it's a low-level shot with a diagonal composition, the light and dark tones are sharply contrasted, and the camera follows the would-be diner through the door of the lunch counter. In just a few sentences, the viewer is alerted to the fact that there is something wrong with the situation in keeping with the stylistic tension in the film. The action in the diner unfolds fairly clearly under its bright flourescent and neon lighting: the threatening men interrogate the server, mentioning two others, then leave. The server sets the two men in back free, then sends one to alert "the Swede", the target of the two killers. As soon as the man from the diner leaves the building, he is covered in shadow, both literally (as the absence of light) and more stylistically when the shrubbery and bushes in silhouette block our view of him as he rushes to aid his friend. The Swede's room itself is cloaked in deepest shadow, and the Swede never even moves while his friend is warning him--not a normal reaction. In fact, his entire set of rooms, with its unlocked door and pitch black interior, is as abnormal a situation as the diner would be a normality to the average viewer. It brings the viewer (and the man from the diner) from the real, everyday world into the nightmare, pathos-laden life of the Swede.
  4. Noir characters are constantly grappling with each other for power. This clip is all about power. Gilda is able to draw Johnny away from business and grab his attention along with everybody else in the nightclub, the film's viewer included. What's the card she plays to do it? Sex. As she works her way through the song, she holds every gaze she meets with a frank sexuality. She knows what she is doing to her audience. Her number is nearly a strip tease (a tease of a strip tease?). She pulls off her gloves and her necklace, finally asking for help taking off her dress. Although she stops short of stripping (not by lack of willingness on her part), Vidor, the director, frames her in close-ups in such a manner that she in fact appears to be naked--the film's viewer gets more of a show (and is perhaps more compelled by her performance) than the nightclub audience is.
  5. There are two ways we can see the influence of film noir in this clip: in the characters and in the shot composition. The characters themselves both speak quickly, hitting their lines hard, with a rhythm that reminds the viewer more of hardboiled detectives like Sam Spade than a mother and daughter alone together. Both are also constantly on the move, literally upstaging each other in their power struggle. Curtiz's shot composition adds to the dynamic tension of the scene, as it does in many noir films. Initially, before the two women fight, the blocky door and bland wall frame them. When their discussion starts to build up heat, however, he uses the stark iron-wrought staircase and the shadows from the window blinds to point to the two of them at a disturbing angle until the climax of the fight, when the daughter's escape is perfectly drawn by the iron balustrade.
  6. Lang again relies upon sound to bring tension to what should be a happy moment--a man's release from the prison of a mental hospital. As he did years before in M with the children's chanting and the bounce of Elsie's ball, in Ministry of Fear the ticking of the clock builds a tension in the viewer before we know what the scene is about. Lang pulls to reveal a man in the shadows watching the clock as we do, tensely, building even more suspense. The contrast between the protagonist's (and our) attitude and the expected joy of the occasion is underlined when his doctor enters the room, full of chipper advice. Clearly the system of the world and its expectations are at odds with the reality to be experienced by both Neale and the viewer.
  7. Frank says, "The essential question is no longer 'who-done-it?' but how does this protagonist act?" In Murder, My Sweet Marlowe is concerned with unravelling the mystery before him, of course, but his primary concern is to come out of the mess he is in alive and unjailed. Rather than a traditional detective, touching the crime from the outside, only participating in the story to provide a solution, the noir protagonist is caught up in the action of the crime, mystery, or drama himself.
  8. Frank describes the film as a character study of furnishings and faces. From the opening shot, it's clear that he is correct. The camera, our point of view, is obscured by props in its movements as we explore the room, which reflects its owner, Waldo Lydecker, in its lush ostentation and voyeurism (especially evident in the masks as he watches the detective wait). By the time we see Lydecker in his bath, we already know from his surroundings that he is a wealthy, eccentric, collector of a man. He likes to keep people waiting, controlling people as he collects and controls his oddities. He is an odd duck to say the least, and the fact that he conducts business from his bath, surrounding with elaborately monogrammed towels, confirms our initial perception of him. Laura's detective is set from the start against the lewd, debauched Lydecker. McPherson all but sneers at the writer as he interviews him, and the viewer senses in that his rejection of the outre decay on display before him, revealing himself to be Lydecker's opposite.
  9. Dave's use of first-person POV is certainly a departure from the rest of the curated openings we have been watching this week. The rest of the films have set us up in a concerned voyeur position, but with Dark Passage we are thrust (mostly) into the head of the main character. There are some dramatic shots of motorcycle cops racing by, and constant sirens that add to a sense of being hunted. . . but as soon as any person-to-person interaction enters the picture, the gimmick is pretty heavy-handed, and really distracts from any sense of danger, especially when Bogey is throwing some fairly fluttering punches. I'm reminded of the incredible House of Wax's equally forced yo-yo in 3-D scene.
  10. Wyler sets up a classic noir contrast from the very first frame--the white moon in the dark, cloudy sky--and follows it up with a series of further blacks vs. whites: the plantation sign in the dark shrubbery, the rubber tree sap against the shadowy trunk, the whitewashed big house behind the silhouetted worker's bunks... ...and the murder breaks the quiet night, bursting out of the black and white world into greys, literally and figuratively--why was there a shooting? What's happening? We don't know, and it seems like the watching moon even blinks in surprise.
  11. (so many contributors to this thread!!!) What caught my eye about this clip was how like a part of the train itself its engineers were. They make the same noises as the train, whistling and grunting instead of talking, are as grimy as the machine is, and function as another gear or lever on the machine itself at appropriate times. They pass another train, but don't signal to its conductor or wave to anyone else--they are divorced from the rest of humanity, hurtling along the iron rails through the dark to their destination.
  12. Lang uses some interesting lingering shots to build tension; one example is right at the start of the clip, when the housefrau scolds the children for playing their game about the child murderer. She berates the children because of the danger they are in from the killer, but then turns away from them, leaving them unsupervised in the courtyard. The camera remains for an unsettling length of time on the empty balcony she has left, letting the loss of a guardian (literally an overseer) sink in. The viewer is left as unsupervised as the children throughout the film, often gazing at a wall (as in the moment the killer's shadow on the poster is all we can see as he speaks to Elsie) or a prop (as later, we watch the toy balloon escape), creating a real sense of tension. We wait for someone who can take a protective hand to let us see what is happening, to understand what exactly is going on, to give us back some control of the situation. Like the children in the film, we are powerless.
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